As a young business owner, I thought price cuts were all it took to encourage customers to buy. But customers are not wallets. As complex human beings, there's more to their decision-making than money considerations alone. Understanding my customers and building trust lay at the heart of gaining their loyalty. And with this loyalty, customers found it easier to make smart buying decisions that benefited both of us. Here are three key strategies to building a strong customer relationship.
Don't Focus on Your Sales, Focus on Your Customers' Needs
Watching the behavior of buyers at a flea market I learned something interesting. Shoppers never return to the same store twice, unless it's by accident. Why? Because flea market vendors fail to offer the customer something beyond the product. Buy it here, buy it there, it makes no difference where.
But if instead of focusing on selling you focus on making buying easier for your customers, this relationship will change. Wanting to boost the sales of my flower selling business, I talked to my customers about their business, the problems they faced, the goals they wanted to achieve. Then I used my skills to troubleshoot solutions using my product.
The insight I offered became part and parcel of the product I sold. My customer was assured that I would never sell him something he didn't need, just as I would never recommend he buy more than he should. This trust in my judgment and experience developed into strong customer loyalty. And this made it easier for my customer to buy my product, knowing that he was buying what he needed and would profit from.
Share Your Knowledge Freely
Customers today spend time surfing the net for information before they make buying decisions. As a small business owner I saw this is a great opportunity to communicate with potential and existing customers.
Before launching my tutoring business, I built a website using free hosting. I devoted 10% of the site to describing my services, while the other 90% were devoted to offering value on the subjects of computer upgrades and education, as well as English and Hebrew education (the two disciplines my business was devoted to).
Using strong keyword placement interspersed with informative articles, I was able to catch online visitors searching for information in my areas of expertise. For example, what are the latest must-have upgrades for my computer was discussed in detail. As well as, which are the best online courses for studying Hebrew. A visitor to the site could start his education without the help of my small business. But once he became a loyal visitor to the website, chances were he would become a loyal costumer, too.
In addition, the business website offered me a publishing venue for featuring customers and their success stories. The blog that grew out of the site further fostered a sense of community. The online, educational presence of my business lent me greater credibility as an expert in my field, which in turn translated to customer loyalty and a rise in business revenues.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
One of my first business mistakes was to think that being ultra-professional will win me customer loyalty. In fact, when I kept a professional distance from my customers they felt as if I saw them as nothing more than a cash cow. When I added a coffee corner in the office, almost every customer stopped to make himself a cappuccino. And conversations around the coffee stand turned our cold business relationship into a more human interaction.
Over the years, I enacted real customer relationship management in my businesses. It was easy to send a birthday card out to a costumer, or a thank-you card on the completion of a large sale. With the advent of social media, it's now even easier to build and maintain personal contact with customers via Twitter or Facebook.
More from Tal Boldo:
How I started my flower business with $150
Selling Your Small Business for the Highest Price
The Scoop on Small Business Coupons
- 5 Tips for Getting Started in a New Industry Young Entrepreneur Council